Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Boston ranks 6th in urban sustainability

Boston has been making strides in urban sustainability over the past few years and it's beginning to show. Sustain Lane has released its 2008 rankings of densely populated US cities on urban sustainability and Boston comes in a healthy 6th up from 7th in 2006 and behind Portland, OR, San Francisco, Seattle, Chicago and New York. Boston's best scores came from City Commuting (#2) and local food and agriculture (#3). You can learn more about the study here.

It's important that we all do our part to help reduce waste too. Here are my top 10 tips for reducing your footprint:

1. Ditch the car for public transportation - or better yet bike or walk everywhere you can.
2. Stop cleaning with paper towels, bar towels are a great alternative.
3. Shop your local farmers markets, your taste buds will thank you.
4. Invest is some good reusable bags for grocery shopping. I'm partial to the durability of the bags sold through Whole Foods.
5. Teach your children the importance of recycling.
6. Give up the bottled water habit.
7. Bring your own coffee cup.
8. Use freecycle to recycle the things you don't want.
9. Switch to biodegradable cleaners, I prefer Method.
10. Support green businesses.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Responding to customer complaints

Earlier this week I had an email exchange with Banana Republic's customer service department. I'm so impressed with their responsiveness that I'm sharing the exchange with you. Of course the next step is to see whether my next BR clothing purchase falls apart on me...What do you think, is BR being sincere in its response or just giving me lip service? Either way, the valuable lesson here is that if BR can respond to a complaint within 12 hours you can too.

My email to BR:
I'm a long time Banana Republic shopper, with the brand composing at least 50% of my wardrobe. It's among my favorite brands because of the fresh styles, reasonable prices, fit and quality. However, the quality seems to be taking a turn for the worse which is what is prompting this email. Over the past 4 months I've bought a dress, tank top and skirt all of which have had to be taken to the tailor to have the hems re-sewed after one washing, a jacket with a sleeve seam that came apart after one wearing and a silk shirt which is starting to fray at the seams of both sleeves after two trips to the dry cleaner. This on top of a handful of dresses with colors that fade and fabrics that loose their smoothness after a few washings. I've never encountered worse quality in clothing than I have from BR over the previous 4 months. Normally I would just stop shopping at your store, but because I have shopped BR for years and have never had quality issues (I have a dress that I bought 8 years ago, worn and washed more times than I can count that still looks brand new) I'm giving BR the benefit of the doubt by sending this email and encouraging that the quality be examined. Please respond and let me know how you will address these concerns.
BR's Response
Dear Ms. Conyngham,

Thank you for your e-mail. We are sorry to learn of your disappointment with the current merchandise quality at Banana Republic. However, we definitely appreciate feedback from our customers - both positive and negative - and your message will be shared with our Merchandising team. Customer feedback is the most important consideration when our merchants are planning what our merchandise quality will be like in the future.

As a note, you can take merchandise to your local Banana Republic store for evaluation, and we will be happy to offer you a return or replacement once the merchandise has been deemed defective by a manager at any Banana Republic store.

If we may be of further assistance, please contact us via e-mail at or by calling 1-888-BR-STYLE. Our Customer Service Consultants are available 24 hours a day for your convenience.


Customer Service Consultant
Responding to customer complaints is one of the most important things a company can do. It shows that you're listening and that you care. And your customers' complaints can turn into your best asset, they show you where the holes in your brand are and where your efforts for improvement should be concentrated. Remember, most people will just drop your brand. If someone takes the time to contact you about their problem you can be pretty confident that there are hundreds more in the wings that have just given up on you.

Image by: John Weise

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Know your niche

Today marked my first entrance back into the design community after a two-year departure. I attended a seminar at the Boston Design Center on starting, managing and maintaining a design firm. I attended with the hopes of a quick refresher on the subtleties of design-based businesses and the speaker, Jared Miller, did not disappoint.

But it was the audience that will get the attention of this post. For the past two years I’ve been working in the insurance industry and attended a number of industry seminars. The audience always had the same composition – very serious, lots of suits, heavy text driven PowerPoint presentations and even-tempered, sometimes disengaged attendees. The audience at today’s seminar was all about business, yet lighthearted, suits were mostly absent being replaced with a mix of stylish/trendy clothing, large splashes of color and wild bags and accessories, people were friendly, engaging and full of life and the PowerPoint was full of images.

What’s the point? – Audiences differ by industry and if you’re marketing to niches (which in today’s marketplace you most likely are) you need to know your niches intimately. Messages should be tailored to them, presentations should be spoken in their language and representatives from your brand should blend and/or compliment the individuals that make up the niche. With a tailored message for each niche you’re more likely to create an engaging exchange with your prospect and once the engagement is created, your brand becomes open to having a meaningful conversation and taking the next step in creating your next customer.

Image credit: Sean Econo

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Don’t forget to think small

Last week I made the cardinal sin of big business and one of my clients called me out on it. I used one generic form letter to serve a wide purpose and it came off as insulting to at least one customer. What I should have done was a series of more targeted, more personalized letters. It would have taken me (significantly) longer, but it would have been more in line with the personal relationships small businesses are better at creating. So let me use my mistake to serve as a reminder to all of us. Our customers are our most valuable assets and they should be treated as such, even if that means a few extra hours at the keyboard.

Image by: